Monday, April 21, 2008

Chris Woodhouse on Macedonia Issue

from the book Plundered Loyalties by John S. Koliopoulos ........

Long ago, in the evil days of Hitler, the British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, described Czechoslovakia as 'a far-away country'of whose people 'we know nothing'. The same tragic error might easily be made today concering Macedonia.

How well known is it in the West that there are two Macedonias, separated by a commonfrontier?

How many know that the northem mini-Macedonia, known officially at the time of writing as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, has a seat at the United Nations, whereas the southern mega-Macedonia does not, because it is not a 'nation- state' but only a province ofGreece? How many have noticed that the acronym FYROM is already relapsing into 'Macedonia' tout court, so that its representative in New York will soon sit behind a tablet simply inscribed 'Macedonia', thus implying that his state alone can rightly claim a Macedonian identity?

This upstart mini-Macedonia is a product ofthe terrible conflict which is described here by Professor John Koliopoulos. It did not appear as Macedonia on any map before the Second World War. It is a landlocked area with no natural boundaries. Its population, apart from the usual Balkan niinorities, is mainly Slavonic and Albanian. As 'Macedonia' it was a creation of Tito, to provide a launching-pad from which to invade and take over the real Macedonia in northern Greece. The real Macedonia, on the other hand, has a history of at least three millennia: it was the homeland of Alexander the Great; the first country in Europe to which St Paul was invited to 'come over and help us'; the mainstay of-the Allied defence against Mussolini in 1940, when (as we chose to put it) Britain 'stood alone'; and the birthplace ofmodem Greece's outstanding Prime Minister, Constantine Karamanlis.

Greek Macedonia, however, also included small minorities in unexpected numbers. It was these, rather than Communist ideology, that helped to fuel the agony of the 1940s - although of course the Communist parties both at home and abroad did their utmost to add to the fuel. It is to these minorities rather than to the distant thunder of Stalin and Tito that Professor Koliopoulos gives his closest and most objective attention. To me this is particularly impressive, because I knew many oftheir leading spirits personally, which Professor Koliopoulos, belonging to a different generation, cannot have done. He portrays them with a psychological intuition in which I can find no fault. For a Greek born in Macedonia and now a Professor at the University of Thessaloniki - the capital of Macedonia, and the 'second capital' of Greece - that is no easy achievement.

It is worth quoting a single example. Andreas Tzimas, who is prominent in the first part of Professor Koliopoulos's work, was a Vlach born in Greek Macedonia. He had a first-class brain and a sense of humour. He spoke many languages, but not English. He was a member of the Central Committee of the Greek Communist Party (from which, of course, he was ultimately expelled as a 'deviationist' like so many others). lowed my life to him once, when I was nearly trapped in Athens by the Sicherheitsdienst.

from his book "The Struggle for Greece 1941-1949" and page 67........

Most of the Slavophone inhabitants in all parts of divided Macedonia perhaps a million and a half in all - felt themselves to be Bulgarians at the beginning of the Occupation; and most Bulgarians, whether they supported the Communists, IMRO, or the collaborating government, assumed that all Macedonia would fall to Bulgaria after the war. Tito was determined that this should not happen. The first Congress of AVNOJ in November 1942 had paranteed equal rights to all the 'peoples of Yugoslavia', and specified the Macedonians among them. By inplication, the guarantee could be extended to Pirin (Bulgarian) Macedonia and Aegean (Greek) Macedonia. The Communist Party of Macedonia, which had passed through a troubled time, first under a pro-Bulgarian leadership and then under pro-Yugoslav Macedonians, was taken in hand early in 1943 by Tempo, who formed a new Central Committee and informed it that it was now an integral part of the Yugoslav CP.

After suitable re-indoctrination, the Macedonian CP issued a pro-Yugoslav 'Ilinden Manifesto' on 2 August, the anniversary of a national rising in 1903. Tempo told them that they could look forward to unification and autonomy within a Yugoslav Federation. This prospect was confirmed by resolutions passed at the second Congress of AVNOJ, held at Jajce at the end of November. It was said to have the approval of Moscow, but this was untrue. Stalin expressed indignation, and so did the Fatherland Front of Bulgaria (including, but not yet dominated by, the Communists), which urged a rival policy of 'an integral, free and independent Macedonia'. Tito in turn repudiated this policy in a message to Dimitrov on 24 January 1944.

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